WORD OF GOD SPEAK — GOD ONLY KNOWS
George Phillips of Meridian, Mississippi was going up to bed when his wife told him that he’d left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window. George opened the back door to go turn off the light but saw that there were people in the shed stealing things. So he called the police. But the police asked, “Are they also in your house?” “Well, no” he replied. Then they said that all patrols were busy, and that he should simply lock his door and an officer would be along when available. George said, “Okay,” hung up, counted to 30, and phoned the police again “Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you don’t have to worry about them now because I’ve just shot them.” Then he hung up.
Within five minutes three police cars, an Armed Response Unit, and an ambulance showed up at the Phillips’ residence and caught the burglars red-handed. One of the Policemen said to George: “I thought you said that you’d shot them!” George replied, “I thought you said there was nobody available!” God only knows what some folks are thinking.
Which is point number one this week. So let’s get to it. John 2:23 [NIV] says, “23Now while he [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” [Back then, a “sign” didn’t have to be a crop circle in a field. Or someone rising from the dead. A sign was simply an astonishing event. Not necessarily something miraculous. So while turning the water into wine was a miracle in John 2:1-12 was clearly astonishing, so was clearing the temple and driving out the money changers in John 2:13-22. Both were signs. Even if both weren’t miraculous.] Moving on. Verses 24-25. “24But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.”
Point number one. God only knows. He knew what was in a man. And this point is as controversial today as the song it came from breaking ground in so many different ways. Do we have any other Beach Boy fans in the church today? Be honest, we’re in church! I hate to admit it, but I still love the Beach Boys. I never grew out of them. They make me feel happy. Like summer will never end. I hope our live band Chordoroy Jacket plays some of their stuff on Monday during our Cars 4 Kidz car show. Wouldn’t that be nice? Which is another Beach Boys song isn’t it? But I digress.
The reader of John should be beginning to realize by now that God only knows. Why? Because John hinted at this already! Remember when Jesus knows all about Nathanael even though they had never met according to John 1:47-49? Remember when Jesus knows all about Simon Peter in John 1:40-42? Same thing with His mother in John 2:4? And as chapter 3 unfolds, telling the story of a prominent spiritual leader named Nicodemus who visits Jesus in the dark of the night, it will become obvious to him and to us that Jesus knows all about him too! Which is actually a really good thing. Because that means fear is totally un necessary. He doesn’t have to pretend any more! And neither do we! We can be we! We can be ourselves! Even around Jesus! Even in church! Now how many folks like the Beach Boys raise your hands?
So God only knows what’s in a man. Therefore fear is un necessary with Jesus. He knows the truth about Nicodemus. That he’s curious but proud. Full of knowledge. But only the trivial pursuit kind. That he’s curious but not convinced no matter what Jesus says. But still Jesus loves him like crazy! Jesus doesn’t reject this rude intrusion into his down time. When Nicodemus shows up to grease the wheels and talk theology in the middle of the night, Jesus doesn’t pretend He’s sleeping which He probably was. He doesn’t hang up on him or send him away. Like I probably would. I mean seriously, who does that? Someone better be dead or dying to wake me up in the middle of the night you know what I mean? And even then, if they’re already dead, can’t they wait till morning? It’s not like they’re going anywhere right? I’m just joking. You can call me anytime. Seriously. Night or day. But I prefer the daylight.
But not Nicodemus. Like Judas in John 13:30, he comes and goes at night. Now, there are three ways to express night time in Greek. The language of the New Testament. One can speak of night time as a specific time, as a period of time, or as a kind of time. Anyone want to guess which kind of time John is using in John 3:2? John is not concerned with when Nicodemus comes or how long he stays. He is interested in how he comes. His spiritual condition. He comes in darkness of soul because he does not yet know Jesus and accept Him fully. But in coming to Jesus, even in the darkness, he is on the right track. Did you know that was even possible? Did you know that you could be far from God but on the right track?
We know this is true because John could have used the other kinds of night time to describe Nicodemus coming to Jesus. But he intentionally used the kind of night time to make the metaphor work. It’s obvious in the Greek that Nicodemus was coming to Jesus in spiritual darkness. But because he was coming to Jesus, he was still on the right track. I love that about this story. It’s something I never noticed before.
But there’s something else going on here besides metaphors and darkness. Back then, the rabbis taught that there were seven things that were totally hidden from human knowledge. These were things reserved for God alone to know. They were: the day of death, the day of consolation, the depths of judgment, one’s final reward, the time when the kingdom of David would be restored, the time when the guilt kingdom of Rome would be destroyed, and what is inside another person. In the first century, these are the 7 things Jewish rabbis taught that everybody knew including Nicodemus.
So knowing that, can you see why John 2:24-25 would be so startling to someone reading the Gospel of John in the 1 st century? John is telling us that Jesus knows what’s inside another person. And Nicodemus, reeling from this conclusion, is trying to figure it out. Which is why there is this long drawn out discussion of spiritual things and rebirth and the wind. And while this section of Scripture is extremely important going so far as to compare the bronze serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness to the cross Jesus would soon be lifted up on to draw all men to Himself as John 12:32 says, I really don’t want to get into all that today. Because I’m afraid if I do, that you’ll miss the most obvious point there is. Which is point number one. God only knows. Therefore fear is un necessary.
He knows all about us. Our faults. Our failings. Our pride. Our insecurities. The masks we wear. The excuses we use. But this encounter with Jesus. This theologically rich conversation with Nicodemus. I really think it was meant to teach us this one thing. God only knows. Therefore, fear is unnecessary with Jesus. Since He is God and God only knows what is inside a man or woman, he already knows what we need to confess. So being reluctant to confess them to Jesus makes absolutely no sense! There is no reason to be hesitant in coming to him and telling him the truth about ourselves which is what confession is really all about. So you’re an alcoholic! Confess it to God and that becomes His problem not yours. He’s the one bragging about being the Great Physician able to cure you of that. So you’re a perfectionist! Confess it to God and that becomes His problem not yours. He’s the one bragging about completing the work in you!
So you’re addicted to gossip, shopping, pornography, food, TV. Whatever it is, Jesus already knows it. So if He already knows it, why don’t we confess it? Wouldn’t it be cool if church became a place where anyone could confess anything without it being repeated outside these walls except in the quiet of our prayer time? So if God knows the truth about us, but we don’t have the courage to confess it, who is keeping us from having victory over it? We are right?! Newsflash: The problem is ours not God’s! So why wait a minute longer? Why not come to Him in your heart and mind. Wherever you are. Whatever time of day or night. Even in the darkness you can be on the right track if you’re coming to confess to Jesus. Even if you’re playing trivial pursuit. And when you come, would you plese begin by telling the truth about yourself instead of flattering He who already knows you. That’s what Nicodemus tried. He says in John 3:2:, “Rabi, we know you are a teacher that has come from God.” Just come straight out with it next time! God only knows why we don’t. That’s point number one.
But the second point that hit me about this passage this week is that God always shows. Let’s skip down to John 3:16-18 [NIV] and read those famous verses there. “16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Some of you, if you’re like me, may be thinking “Yeah yeah, Pastor Mike, Jesus came to save the world not condemn it. We get it. But we don’t condemn the world do we? We’re not in spiritual darkness. Doesn’t this story of Nicodemus really only apply to people who aren’t Christian?” I used to think so. Until I watched a the following 8 minute video at a pastors meeting in August. It’s called This Is Who I Am. It’s a monologue from a modern day Nicodemus. Take a look.
Point number one, God only knows. Therefore fear is un-necessary. Point number two, God always shows. Therefore condemnation is un Christian. Every generation really wants answers. They really do want the light. It’s exhausting searching for it all alone. Yes, they may know that God loves them like crazy. But what she was saying in that DVD is knowing is not enough. Not for Nicodemus in the 1 st century. And not for us in the 21 st century. Knowing is not enough. We must show them that God loves them like crazy. And they won’t really believe it until they see it. Does that make sense to you? God only knows. God always shows. Point number three: God helps us grow.
Jesus said in John 8:12 [NIV], “12I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” No doubt, condemnation and judgement was not the purpose of Jesus’ mission, but surprisingly to some, it is one of the results. He knows. He shows. And if we want to, we grow. But what happens if we don’t? John 3:18 [NIV] says, “18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”
There are 3 places in the Bible where the word judgement occurs. One is at the cross. One is at the end time. And the other is right here right now. Whenever Jesus is preached and offered but rejected. I’m not going to lie to you. Following Jesus isn’t a choice. It’s a lifestyle. It’s an extreme home make over. Obeying Him will totally rearrange your priorities. But it’s so worth it!!! That’s what the rest of John 3:19-21 means. “19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
I tell my kids all the time. I love you when you’re good. I love you when you’re bad. I love you when you’re happy. I love you when you’re sad. There’s nothing you can do, to make me love you more. There’s nothing you can do, to make me love you less. And Jesus feels the same way! But there’s still consequences. And the consequence of rejecting Jesus as the light of the world is staying in the dark where you don’t grow. Doesn’t that just make sense? My prayer for you today is that you won’t do that. That at the beginning of this school year, at the beginning of our More About Jesus series that has already begun on Wednesdays, my prayer for you is that you’ll let the light of the world, who knows all about You but loves you anyway, shine on you, and grow in you.
He won’t force you to choose Him. You can say no if you want to. But I pray that you won’t. Because Jesus came to know us. To show us. And to grow in us. Why? Verse 21! So that it may be plainly seen that what has been done has been done by God! So the emerging generations of His kids will not only know but be shown the crazy love of God. Which is the whole point of ordinary outreach and our Cars 4 Kidz car show on Monday. The question everybody in every generation has to ask is: Will we let Him? Nathaniel did. Peter did. Mary did. And we know that eventually Nicodemus did too. For he next appears in the Gospel of John in chapter 7 verses 50-51 no longer doubting Jesus but defending Him before his peers. And don’t forget it was Nicodemus and his friend Joseph and Arimathea who took Jesus down off the cross and buried Him in John 19:39. Not just in a tomb, but in their hearts. Think about as Pastor Nathan sings this song in closing.